Hebrew Schools and Israel

Over at the Prospect, I've written an essay about my Jewish upbringing, and what I was and wasn't taught about the history and politics of Israel. This is a piece that's been percolating in my mind for years, so I hope you all check it out. As a bonus, you get to read about my childhood rabbi who was arrested for driving while high. You can't make this stuff up.

The institutions that claim to speak for the broadest swaths of mainstream American Jewry — the three unions of Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox congregations — explicitly teach children not to identify with the Jewish people's long, Diaspora history as a strange people living in a series of strange lands. Rather, they valorize Zionism and Israel, often discouraging any critical thinking about either the history of the Jewish state or its present-day politics.

Raised as a Conservative-movement Jew, it was not until college that I learned about Israeli history — written by Jews — documenting the stories of the 800,000 Palestinians displaced by Israel's founding. At synagogue, I heard nothing about the daily lives of the nearly four million stateless Palestinian Arabs living in the lands seized by Israel after the Six-Day War of 1967.

Hebrew School taught me that Israel was the Jewish people's answer to the Holocaust, and that its open immigration policies for Jews would prevent the occurrence of another genocide. In medieval and early-modern Europe, laws often prohibited Jews from owning weapons or serving in the military. One teacher told us that Jewish men were regularly forced to stand by, idly, as Gentile brutes raped their wives and daughters. But in Israel, the Jewish people would no longer be weak, effeminate, or intellectualized. In Israel, we became sabres, or prickly pears — still sweet and loving internally, but proudly tough and dangerous on the outside. In Israel, we would have machine guns.

8 thoughts on “Hebrew Schools and Israel

  1. Joachim Martillo

    The distorted nature of Jewish education is far worse that Dana Goldstein indicates because the Hebrew day school version of Jewish history is taught with complete decontextualization in order to make sure that Jewish children never learn about the legitimate grievances that non-Jews might have about non-Jews.

    For example, in the USA it is hard to learn about the century of Eastern European Jewish sabotage, radical revolutionary violence, targeted assassinations, mass murder, ethnic cleansing, and genocide that preceded the Holocaust and that forms a continuum with Zionist extremism, racism, murderousness, and genocidalism to this day.

    At the beginning of the twentieth century, Sholem Aleichem and I.J. Singer wrote about Jewish financial aggressiveness and fraud, but as far as I know, all economic texts — generally written by Jews — systematically underplay the role Jewish networks of trust played in the Long Depression, the Great Depression, and the market crashes that preceded them while the more honest Yiddish novelists and short story writers, targeting an entirely Jewish audience, only mention the Jewish victims of Jews while the ruined non-Jews never make it into the texts.

    This sort of Jewish economic violence forms a continuum with the corruption, conspiracy and manipulation that my wife Karin Friedemann describes in a recent Khaleej Times op-ed and that I discuss in my commentary on her article entitled Chop Shop Economics and Stealth Zionism, which can be found at link to eaazi.blogspot.com .

    Yet as charming as Goldstein’s Hebrew day school reminiscences may be, I cannot overemphasize too strongly that the fault for modern Jewish and non-Jewish ignorance about the backstory of Zionist crimes and atrocities lies more with non-Jewish historians that systematically underemphasize the importance of Jewish history than it does with Hebrew day schools. (See link to eaazi.blogspot.com .)

  2. Akira

    Are you aware than some of the most blood stained mass murderers in history are Jews?

    Yagoda, “Trotsky”, Zinoviev, Kaganovich. Sverdlov. Kamenev.

    Are you aware that the Russian Revolution was a Jewish scheme to overthrow the largest Christian nation on earth?

    Are you aware it was funded by Russia-hating Jews who built up German and Japanese militarism?

    Schiff, Kahn, Warburg, Lazar, Rothschild. etc etc etc etc

    Are you aware their even less Judaic than the average present-day US “Jew”, because the lot of them are Satanic Freemasons? Like 1/3 of the founders of B’nai B’rith. Are you aware of the revolutionary freemason element going back to Germany when they were driven out after the 1848 revolution and ended up infecting banks governments the Young “Turks” etc etc

    Google around and see.


    Trotsky Schiff

    Lenin Anna Stalin Moishe

    Rockefeller Cold Harbor Mengele

    Mengele Warburg

    Kaganovich Jew

    Comintern Jew

    etc etc etc

    You could spend the rest of your life documenting this scam

    And who’ll get the blame? That’s right. Mr and Mrs Lowestein at the corner store who never cheated anybody.

    And why is it covered up?

    Right. You guessed it. No wonder they now want to close down the internet!

  3. Akira

    Looking at the left wing filth I see on your blog roll,

    Please don’t go from being a flag-waving Zionist to a Hamas propagandist.

    The rot in Jewish life is not from Israelis who however it happened are now there fighting for survival.

    The rot is in the ADL, ACLU, and all the evil bastards who have made “jews” = “buggery and infanticide r us”

  4. Klaatu

    The beginning of understanding is looking at one’s past with neither love nor hate. It’s tragic that Jews have been so indoctrinated about their Diaspora history, especially since 95+% of that story is myth. That myth is the way people are led by their “leaders”. Ben Gurion and Weizman, and the likes of Obama in the U.S.–”change you can believe in”, with precious little change.

  5. Joachim Martillo

    In my previous comment at link to tinyurl.com , I wrote “The distorted nature of Jewish education is far worse that Dana Goldstein indicates because the Hebrew day school version of Jewish history is taught with complete decontextualization in order to make sure that Jewish children never learn about the legitimate grievances that non-Jews might have about non-Jews” but meant “The distorted nature of Jewish education is far worse that Dana Goldstein indicates because the Hebrew day school version of Jewish history is taught with complete decontextualization in order to make sure that Jewish children never learn about the legitimate grievances that non-Jews might have about JEWS.”

  6. Janey

    Dana you have a lot of interesting commenters.
    No we have not been “indoctrinated” Klaatu, Im a Polish jew and Im darker than a lot of Arabs. If youre referring to Shlomo Sand’s book, I can tell you he just pimped out controversial theories to gain publicity.
    Its very interesting how Dana is trying to come to terms with jewish eternal victimization but now she applies that same eternal victimization. You now see the Palestinians through the same lens as the you once saw jews. You immortalize them, adopt them as the new the “chosen people,” Promoting basic human rights in the Palestinian territories is fine but your support is more like complete worship. And you would treat them the same way Americans treat jews. You will allow Arabs to exploit the term “anti arabism” You will support any ridiculous arab lobby and demand ridiculous reparations, you will excuse crimes that are committed by Arabs and cover them up. You will rewrite history so it is preferable to arabs. You are no different than the “holocaust worshipers” that Norman Finkelstein described in his book.

  7. ba

    from here — link to blog.z-word.com

    pretty much sums up Dana.

    Some of the most serious criticisms of Israel and Zionism come from Jews themselves. How do you interpret this response?

    Well, sometimes the criticisms are rightly made. But, yes, a very curious phenomenon does pop up now and then. An old phenomenon. Back in the time of the European ghettos, most of the Jews were stuck behind the walls, and were despised for being there. But some of the Jews got out, and they did their best to blend into the majority population, and they even did their best to highlight the difference between themselves and their despised ghetto brethren. I happen just now to be reading Bernard Lewis on Lessing, the German writer.

    I quote Bernard Lewis: “Lessing, perhaps the greatest of European philosemites, subtly realizes this attitude. In one of his plays, a vulgar and loud-mouthed antisemitic servant, suddenly discovering that his revered master is a Jew, tries to atone for his previously hostile remarks by observing in defense of the Jews that ‘there are Jews who are not at all Jewish.’ Some Jews responded to this kind of defense and implied invitation with eager enthusiasm, others with outrage. Both kinds of responses can still be found among Jews in the present day.”

    Lessing lived in the 18th century, and Lewis wrote the lines I’ve just quoted in the 1980s, in his book Semites & Anti-Semites. But it’s really about our own moment, isn’t it? There do seem to be a fair number of Jews who are tremendously eager to show how innocent they are – unlike the other Jews, the guilty ones.

  8. Aaron Aarons

    Re “Posted by: ba”:

    I wish there were more people of Jewish background, whether they consider themselves “Jews” or not, who would repudiate the crimes carried out in the name of “the Jewish people” by Jewish-identified people in occupied Palestine (including “Israel”) and their collaborators (“Jews” philosemites, and Christian Zionists) in the United States, Canada, the U.K. and elsewhere.

    I may have done many things in life that I feel guilty about, but having been born into a Jewish-identified family is not one of them. And my support for the Zionist state ended in 1956, at the time of the Suez invasion, when I was still rather young, so I don’t feel guilty about that support, either.

    I can’t speak for other anti-Zionists of Jewish background, but I knew very few gentiles until after I had repudiated Zionism and other forms of Jewish tribalism, so I didn’t do it to suck up to the “goyim”. In fact, I often criticize my gentile friends for their unwillingness to strongly criticize Israel and Zionism.

    BTW, I realize that I’m being more personal than political here, unlike in most of my comments on other sites, but this blog of Dana’s is itself personal, so I hope my comments are appropriate.


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